A Lump of Lead
A chunk of unidentified lead hidden in a tin for almost 20 years turned out to be a very interesting find for a Kent detectorist. He found the item in a small orchard in the mid 1990’s, long before the internet with detecting forums and Faceache made identification of items easy. Books on Roman coins were researched at the time but nothing could be found relating to the find.
After registering the find (somewhat late!) with the FLO, the old piece of lead was taken to London to be viewed by Dr. Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser, Ancient Coins at the British Museum. He recorded it as a “find of note” and was designated for inclusion in the British Numismatic Journal, ‘Coin Register.’
The detectorist was surprised when his ‘piece of lead’ was a possible trial piece of the reverse die of a silver medallion of Valens (AD 364-78). How it came to be in a small field in Kent is a mystery, as the mintmark is from Trier, in Germany.
The lead seal probably features amongst the commoner of artefacts found by detectorists when searching farmland.
The subject has appeared many times in detecting magazines throughout the years but the one I remember in particular was published 26 years ago. Mick Cuddeford discussed lead seals and in particular those from bags of guano.
What emerged was a fascinating story about bird droppings from South America, and how bag seals can be so interesting for the detectorist who wasn’t in the ‘gold stater league’. Here’s an extract:
From pre-historic times, the contents of farm middens had been used as a convenient source of soil enrichment … some forms of refuse and manure had unproductive side effects on certain crops however, and from medieval times it had been realised that nitrate-rich bird droppings were a valuable source of fertiliser. It was common then for the gentry to keep dove cotes as a source of meat … and the droppings were regarded as prime material for spreading on the land.Mick CudDeford
Coo, I reckon you’d need a lot of pigeons!
What Exactly is Guano?
Off the coast of Peru there are islands that have been the roost of vast colonies of seabirds for centuries. This has created to a build-up of droppings, or guano, many feet thick, and towards the end of the 19th century this was mined as a commercial export for fertiliser.
What emerged was a fascinating story about bird droppings from South America, and how bag seals can be so interesting for the detectorist who wasn’t in the ‘gold stater league’. Research like this into one of the more common finds proves just how much you can learn from the hobby. Here’s an extract
The best examples of bag seals are to be found at Bagseals.org. Stuart Elton has been collecting seals – donated by detectorists – and the best were included in a book, which I reviewed in the July 2017 edition of the Searcher magazine.
Lead corrosion forms a white crust on the surface of the object. Another good indication that the object is made of lead will appear to be much heaver than you would expect from just looking at it. Remember that lead oxide is poisonous and care should be taken when handling corroded lead objects, to ensure that none of it is ingested. Be safe.